Teams Swim in TRIPE Soup

Software teams new to retrospectives can struggle with what to reflect on - I’ve experienced a consistent pattern of my teams’ discussion being stuck in the code, and retrospecting solely on technical decisions - Should we have used a different library? Should we have architected differently? Should we rename the API? - instead of including the medium in which we are doing our work.

For this reason I’ve reduced some common dropped balls into the acronym TRIPE: Tools, Resources, Interactions, Process, Environment. I’ve used this on many teams and it never fails to illuminate areas that we might otherwise miss.

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Imagine swimming in a bowl of delicious Beef tripe rice noodles, CC-BY 2009 Dennis Wong

When we kick off the data collection portion of our retrospectives, if the conversation gets stuck in code, or if the team didn’t think there was any data to collect, I ask the question again - “What happened? What did you notice?” - but add “…about your Tools, Resources, Interactions, Process, Environment?”.

Here are some responses my teams have had to “what did you notice?” for each category.

Tools

“Our IDE has lousy refactoring support.”

“We don’t have the right license we need for the tool we’re using.”

“We’re managing git with the wrong tool.”

“I’m tired of looking at myself in the video conferencing tool - how do I turn it off?”

“Susan’s microphone is too quiet.”

Resources

“We need more lightning cables to charge our test devices.”

“We need another bluetooth keyboard.”

“My computer needs more RAM to build the project quickly.”

“My Web camera sucks. I need a better one.”

“We need more budget for attending conferences - that’s how we do our best recruiting.”

Interactions

“I keep getting interrupted before I’ve finished my thought.”

“I don’t feel the team takes my ideas seriously.”

“[Team member] Bob has been quiet a lot lately - I’m wondering what we can do to get more feedback from him. Is everything ok Bob?”

Process

“I feel like we’re missing a column in our Kanban board.”

“I didn’t know what user story we were working on - did we even have a story for that?

“I keep forgetting to write a test before coding - can we automate a reminder for that somehow?”

“I feel like we’re missing a brainstorming step - we dive right into our first idea and implement it..should we mark out a step before coding where we discuss options?”

Environment

“It’s really noisy here - I can’t think!”

“I’m super cold - my heat has been shut off.”

“The morning sun hits my screen and I can’t see anything for about an hour.”

“I have the most uncomfortable chair, it’s driving me crazy.”

Final Thoughts

It can be extremely difficult for a typical engineer to lift their head up out of the code and see the impediments and opportunities all around them - slowing them down, snarling their thinking, or waiting in the wings to help them build better software sooner.

Including TRIPE in your retrospectives builds the muscle of seeing the context in which we work, along with the problems we are working on. Once we can see, we can understand and then continuously improve both our code and our context.